Six for St. Paul City Council win Labor endorsement

The St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, with more than 100 affiliate unions representing 50,000 union members in the East Metro, has endorsed six candidates for St. Paul City Council on the Nov. 3 ballot. Read more about Ward 2 candidate Darren Tobolt here, and read profiles of the Labor-endorsed candidates for St. Paul school board here. To view a full list of the RLF’s endorsed candidates in 2015, click here.

Saint Paul Union AdvocateWard 1: Dai Thao

• Union background: Former union member, when he was on staff at MEA, now Education Minnesota.

• Toughest job he’s ever worked: Huckleberry picking in Western Montana and Idaho. “You work before sunrise past sunset,” Thao said. “Each berry has to be hand-picked in rugged terrain. You’re exposed to harsh elements and wild animals – grizzly bears, cougars – and your meal is a fist-sized bag of rice with jerk. I learned to put things into perspective and to work hard.”

• On what it means to be labor endorsed: “Labor endorsement means that I have a partner in creating a more equitable St. Paul. I have people I can rely on to implement progressive policies that benefit working families.”

Ward 2: Darren Tobolt

• Union background: Former member, Local 110 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in St. Paul.

• Toughest job he’s ever worked: Army Basic Training, prior to service in the National Guard. “It was pretty tough, giving up autonomy at 18 years old,” Tobolt said. “The biggest lesson that I learned was that life is like weather – you don’t control it, you can only control how you react to it.”

• On what it means to be labor endorsed: “Growing up in a union household, I have always valued the labor movement. I am honored to have earned the trust of my brothers and sisters in organized labor. As a council member I will make sure that public employees are respected and that all the money the city spends reflects our community values about working conditions and fair wages.”

Ward 3: Chris Tolbert

• Union background: Member of AFSCME Local 2938.

• Toughest job he’s ever worked: Cook at Kentucky Fried Chicken. “I learned that I wanted a different job,” Tolbert said. “It was tough because I was in high school and the working conditions were horrible, but when it’s just you versus a boss, you don’t have much power to stand up for yourself. It would have been nice to have had some union support.”

• On what it means to be labor endorsed: “It was an honor to earn the endorsement of my sisters and brothers in labor when I first ran for office in 2011; it’s humbling to have their endorsement as I run for re-election, because it means I’ve stuck to my values while in office and continue to have their trust and confidence.”

Ward 4: Russ Stark

• Union background: “I haven’t had the pleasure,” Stark said. “My mom is a retired AFSCME member.”

• Toughest job he’s ever worked: “City Council member is both the toughest and best job I’ve ever worked. I’ve learned that every little thing you do in your job and in life counts and will be remembered by someone. I’ve learned that change is hard and balancing the desires of constituents with your own idea of what’s right is very similar to the balancing act we all do in our families and workplaces.”

• On what it means to be labor endorsed: “I’m proud to be supported by the working people of St. Paul who have taught my kids in school, cared for family members in the hospital, fixed my streets and sewers, pick up my recycling, and built some of the great new venues in our great city. It means that they’ve noticed when I have stood up for their best interests and for what’s right for our city. Every policy and budget decision we make in City Hall effects not just the residents and businesses in our community but also the lives and families of the people who do all of the work to make it all possible.”

Ward 6: Dan Bostrom

• Union background: Former member of the St. Paul Police Federation and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE).

• Toughest job he’s ever worked: Police officer in St. Paul. “While I laid brick for a short while as a young man – one of the main reasons I still admire the craft and push for brick buildings today – the toughest job I’ve ever worked was as a St. Paul police officer,” Bostrom said. “In order to be assured of going home at the end of each shift, I had to completely trust and rely on my brothers and sisters in blue. I knew they had my back and I always had theirs.”

• On what it means to be labor endorsed: “I have been honored to have a group of advisors from a variety of unions over the years, and I am proud to call them my personal friends. They have given me advice, insights and perspective that has been invaluable as the Council has made decisions on contracts, projects and more.”

Ward 7: Jane Prince

• Union background: Former member of the Professional Employees Association.

• Toughest job she’s ever worked: Frozen-food factory. “The work was physically demanding, being on my feet all day, working in a cold environment and not being able to take restroom breaks without asking permission and getting replaced on the assembly line,” Prince said. “Despite how uncomfortable and repetitious the job was, my coworkers were friendly, cheerful and proud of their work.

“These workers came to work each day wearing their 10-, 20- and 30-year pins. I learned that respect and recognition by employers pay dividends of worker loyalty and commitment.”

• On what it means to be labor endorsed: “Good union jobs at Whirlpool, 3M and the Hamm’s Brewery were responsible for building a strong middle class on the East Side; losing those employers hit the East Side hard. I will work with organized labor to bring good jobs back. At City Hall I will work with public employees to deliver high-quality city services, hold the line on taxes and make St. Paul a great place to live and work.”

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